Search billions of records on Ancestry.com

MATT EGGER

     The years rest lightly on Matt Egger, 87-year-old Ravalli County resident since 1900. In good health, he enjoys everyday of living, busying himself by keeping his house and yard on Lyndale Avenue neat and clean. With remarkable memory, he recalls the events of his long life which began in Switzerland, December 6, 1870. He became an orphan at an early age going to work a short time later on a farm. In 1891, he came to America settling at Monticello, Iowa where he worked several years on a farm before coming to Montana.

     His first work in the Bitter Root valley was in a logging camp west of Grantsdale. The next year, he took a job as a milker on the dairy farm of Marcus Daly, working there in various capacities for 47 years until 1948 when he retired. During that time, he was gardener, growing quality fruits and vegetables for the table of Mrs. Marcus Daly who entertained lavishly during those days of gentility. Friends and relatives of the Dalys from all over the country came to enjoy the hospitality at the estate which was said to be the most beautiful in Montana.

     Mrs. Daly insisted that fresh vegetables be available all during the summer. To accomplish this, seeds were planted at intervals, producing such out of season vegetables such as peas, radishes, lettuce, and corn until fall frosts. A large greenhouse was maintained to provide the flowers and vegetables during the other times of the years.

     "Mrs. Daly was a remarkable woman," Matt Egger said. "She had formen and supervisors, but often she would take complete charge of the job of running the servants in the mansion and the workers on the estate. That is why the place was such a beautiful one."

     Matt Eggers recalls that in 1900 Hamilton was a rough town dominated by a backwash of miners, smelter workers, and lumber jacks. It was in that year that a couple of lumber jacks got into a fight and knocked over a kerosene lamp in the old Hamilton Hotel which occupied the same site as the present brick structure. Built of lumber, the building burned like a pile of tinder and with it took much of Hamilton's main street. Commenting on the lack of an adequate water system or fire protection, a wit remarked, "All you could save was the lot."

     Heavy winter snows and spring rains caused a serious flood in the Bitter Root in 1906, Eggers recalls. The swollen streams overflowed and their banks washing out bridges and sections of the railroad grade. The heavy rains poured from low hanging clouds which darkened the skies of the valley for days. The sustained moisture threatened the crops, but ideal weather later in the summer brought about bumper yields of hay and grain.

     Marcus Daly, the great horseman, built an excellent race track and grandstand on the site of the present ball park in Hamilton. the reserved seat section was fitted with plush upholstered opera chairs, Eggers recalls. When the structure was torn down, these were used in one of the Hamilton theaters.

     Mr. Egger recalls with amusement, the appearance of Haley's comet in 1910. The entire sky was illuminated with a strange fluorescent hue. People prepared for the end of the world, fearful that the awesome thing would strike the earth bringing carnage and destruction.

     Mr. Egger is in remarkable health. Still interested in gardening, he finds time to help Mr. and Mrs. E.O. Marx, his neighbors grow quality vegetables. Interested in mechanics, he keeps his 17 year-old car in first class running condition. Hale, and hardy, Mr. Eggar chops his own wood, cooks his meals and keeps his house neat and clean. His background as a professional gardener is evident by the lush and neat appearance of his lawn which he cuts with a hand mower. No unsightly weeds are allowed to grow to mar the yards and buildings.

     As a hobby, Mr. Egger enjoys classical music which he plays from a good selection of records. Included are the works of Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Schubert, and other great names in the musical history. Without wearing glasses, he is able to read the fine print on the labels of the records.

     Possessing a happy disposition and a ready smile, Mr. Eggers lives each day according to the principles laid down in "the good book." Busying himself with tasks within his physical limitations, he gives proof that old age need not be feared.

The Western News, July 25, 1957